Scenic USA - Delaware

Fenwick Island Lighthouse

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Fenwick Island Light Station - Town of Fenwick Island, Delaware

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

   Spending 50 dollars on a ten acre parcel of land brought the Federal Government closer to construction of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse in 1856. Increasing shipwrecks just off the coast on Fenwick Shoals pressed the Lighthouse Board into action, having Fenwick Island Lighthouse aided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the light station. Completed in 1859, the 87 foot brick tower was the only one of this type built in the state. The unusual design called for two conical towers, one inside the other, with a cast iron spiral staircase rising through the watch room, up to the lantern room. The third-order Fresnel lens was lit for the first time on Aug. 1, 1859. The lighthouse maintained operations for almost 120 years until it was decommissioned in 1978. Deemed no longer necessary by the U.S. Coast guard in 1981, the light station was turned over to the State of Delaware. In turn, the state leases the property to the non-profit group, Friends of Fenwick Island Lighthouse.
   The first bridge to Fenwick Island was built as early as 1880, but did not survive the strong coastal currents. Subsequent bridges lead to simple beach cottages, lacking electrical power and running water. These residents were the first to enjoy the wide open beach and casual atmosphere under the watchful eye of Fenwick Lighthouse. During the 1950s residents began feel the overcrowding, and fearing another "Ocean City atmosphere," the town looked to incorporate for protection. Today, Fenwick Island retains its status as a quiet beach town, made for a family-style vacation get-away.

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